Of Backwardness and Special Status- Part 1

Posted on:23-10-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

The last few months has seen a clamour from states including Odisha and Bihar for receiving “Special Category Status” (SCS). Meanwhile, last week a panel headed by Raghuram Rajan released a new index of "underdevelopment" to determine central fiscal assistance to states. The index ranked Odisha and Bihar amongst the least developed states. .  What do these criteria mean? What are the benefits of SCS? How is the new underdevelopment index different? This blog attempts to lay out the changing nature of centre - state finances through an analysis of both SCS and the new underdevelopment index. Read more »

Achieving Total Sanitation: Measuring the Problem

Posted on:14-10-13

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

With elections around the corner an issue that seems to have caught everyone's attention is the poor state of sanitation in India. According to Census 2011 findings, only 30.7 percent of rural households have access to sanitation. Given the current unit cost of construction, this would entail over 1 lakh crores of additional expenditure (19 times the expenditure incurred from 1999-2011) to cover 2011 household levels. Construction aside, usage figures are even more dismal. A UNICEF and WHO report[1] found that in 2008 a mere 21 percent of rural India uses improved sanitation facilities[2]. Read more »

Notes from the field: The trouble with transport

Posted on:01-10-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

Monitoring PAISA surveys is particularly interesting in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district due to the challenges posed to get to schools. Some schools are located close to village centers and on concrete roads, and are easy to find. Others are further away, off mud tracks, between two village centres and harder to find. Yet others are built on hills, they require a steep climb, several nervous leaps over brimming streams and wild scrambling to get to. Read more »

Is the ban on private tutoring by school teachers justified?

Posted on:19-09-13

Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

The last two decades have seen a tremendous expansion of the government school system (and probably an even more rapid expansion of private schools) in India. Unfortunately, learning levels have not shown any such improvement, and are, more worryingly, showing a decline[1].  Researchers and policy makers are struggling to find ways to improve learning levels in a systemic way. It is in this context, the phenomenon of private tuitions has started getting some attention[2].

An important question that emerges here is - who provides these private tuitions? In many instances, it is the school teacher who also provides private coaching or tuitions after school hours. This creates a potential distortion in teacher incentives. It is quite possible for these teachers to finish only part of the syllabus in the classroom and generate demand for their own tuitions outside the classroom. As a result, the students who don’t demand these tuitions (because, say, they can’t afford it) are clearly worse-off. Read more »

From Farm to School: A Photo Essay on the Provision of MDM in Schools

Posted on:13-09-13

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

A few months ago, Vibhu and I discussed the issues surrounding the delivery of grain for the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme (see here).

This photo essay aims to visually depict the supply chain of grains to schools, as well as some of the school-level issues we’ve observed during our field-work on tracking the flow of grain and funds under MDM. Read more »

Raghubytes: Too right to be left, too left to be right

Posted on:09-09-13

T.R. Raghunandan, Advisor, Accountability  Initiative

(In the first blog of a series titled “Raghubytes”, T.R. Raghunandan offers readers a look at the functioning of the Government Machinery through the eyes of a former bureaucrat.) Read more »

Private learning landscape in India: A brief review of the literature and available data

Posted on:03-09-13

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

In 2012, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) found that, in rural India, the number of children in the age group of 6-14 years attending private schools was 28%. In fact, the percentage of children attending private schools has been on the rise over the past few years, and between 2009 and 2012, this number increased by 6 percentage points.[1] This shift in the form of schooling was visible while conducting the second round of the PAISA District Studies surveys in Rajasthan recently. In many of the government schools that I visited, the enrollment of children was dropping significantly, particularly if the school was close to an urban area. For example, in Jaipur, I came across some schools where the enrollment had reduced by more than half in the past two years. The teachers at one such school felt that a lot of the parents are choosing to send their children to private schools as they believe these schools can provide better education. Some of the government school teachers even agreed with the parents and said that public school teachers are so bound by meetings and accounting for funds that the learning process is being left behind. So what does the literature say about private schooling in India? Are there discernible differences between public and private schools and the learning they can impart? Also, are the students supplementing their schooling in any way, and if they are, what are the benefits? Read more »

Per Student Allocations of Elementary Education Budget (2011-12 & 2012-13) and Learning Outcomes (2012)

Posted on:27-08-13

The following table presents the per student allocation on elementary education across India[1] and the associated learning levels in these states, according to ASER 2012 report. Read more »

How many officials does it take to procure a government document?

Posted on:05-08-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

The first step when conducting a Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) at Accountability Initiative is to procure a permission letter from the relevant department of that State to be able to carry out our research. A permission letter is a signed, authorised, official-nod that is passed on to district and block administrators, and later, photocopied and distributed to all our volunteers. The volunteers carry this letter with them to the government schools they visit. It authenticates our intent and simplifies the data collection process. The permission letter is often the very first obstacle in the data collection process. Read more »

Whistleblowers: Whose Protection?

Posted on:02-08-13

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

As the debate rages on about whether or not US whistleblower Edward Snowden should be extradited from Russia to the USA and about the protection he deserves (or not) for leaking sensitive data on the National Security Agency (NSA)’s surveillance activities, questions have arisen in my mind these past few weeks about the kinds of legal provisions that exist in different countries for the protection of whistleblowers. Recent articles and debates centre more on whether Snowden even qualifies as a whistleblower (see here and here). Questions remain as to why countries such as Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered Snowden protection, especially with the threat of US sanctions. This blog, however, offers a quick comparison of the legislation enacted or proposed in select countries to encourage and protect public interest disclosure. Read more »